Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Live Blog: Yanks v Catrachos

Well, we're back at it again for the USMNT's World Cup qualifier v Honduras. I'm getting warmed up with a few Kalibers (it's a school night) and am trying to find some salve some balm some soothing remedy to take the edge off of having to listen to Alexi Lalas do his Devil's-advocate-moral-pedant-smug-I'm-that-much-more-clever-than-you-soccer-Confucius routine. Mercifully, these performances are separated by at least 45 minutes of relative calm, but I'm open to suggestions on what might do the trick. I'm hard on Alexi, but it's because I care.

To me, this photo says, "You know what, Ric Flair!"
Stay tuned! We'll (I'll) be back in about an hour. Come on you Yanks!

USMNT starting lineup: Howard, Johnson, Besler, Gonzalez, Evans, E. Johnson, Dempsey, Bradley, Jones, Zusi, Altidore.

DMB on the ban for accumulation of yellows. No Fab Johnson in the midfield. *Sniff*. I'm beginning to think our left back situation is a little like England's left winger curse. I mean seriously, what do we have to do to get a functional, steady left back? Beasley has been surprisingly good, but he's a stopgap. Fab Johnson always looks much better to me when he's allowed to run on the wings and play with the confidence that he knows there's someone there to put out fires behind him. If you're like 15 to 18 years old and you're somehow reading this and you carry a US passport and you have even an outside shot at being a professional caliber left back, MAKE THAT HAPPEN. In fact, stop reading this. Go outside and work on your fitness and your touch. If you have an older, bigger, faster brother, just try to win the ball off of him over and over again. Do it 1,000 times and then do it again. If this can take place in a misty forest or on a cloud shrouded mountain, all the better.  

Altidore could have a field day against the Honduras center backs. They're inexperienced and not quite the physical specimens Josmer is.

Honduras starting lineup: Valladares, Peralta, Colon, Montes, Izaguirre, Claros, Palacios, Martinez, Espinoza, Najar, Costly.

Side note: How the H do you make accents and tildes and umlauts and whatnot on Blogger whilst using a Mac?! Seriously, I need to know.

Over/under 60% chance the telecast catches Bengston dressed as Elvis in the nosebleeds at Rio Tinto? Also, Gonzalez and Besler cannot allow Costly to find space between them or it could prove...wait for it...costly. I'll be here all night.

What's the general sentiment on the US short sleeved Henley shirts with the stars pocket? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Better than the '94 World Cup kit? I think I could get much more onboard with them if they were paired with these -

Whoa! Twellsy looks decidedly scruffy and weathered. Sort of a Marlboro Man/J Crew model/Mad Men mash up. Don't like the polka dot pocket square with the plaid shirt though. It's just a little too much for me. Other than that, looking dapper, Taylor. Looking dapper.

Just noticed Old Glory is essentially the same thing as Twellsy's pocket square/plaid shirt faux pas. Crap. Is our flag busy?! Do we have a busy flag?!

Here we go! Teams walking out on the field and...holy shit! Manuel Noriega is the center official!

Espinoza must be thinking, "Crap, these jerseys look just like Wigan's."

Well, we're off.

2' Free kick for USMNT. Zusito take. Deuce still hasn't hooked him up with Tottenham's hair guy. I'm beginning to think Zusi WANTS to look like an Omaha soccer mom. His choice, I suppose.

4' Deuce with an insect in his eye? An insect? Y'all, Honduras brought insects. Insects!

5' Honduras is already looking more capable than Panama did. I can't help but wonder how much the absence of Blas Perez defanged them. Perhaps the goalfest v a German C team and the comfortable win over a Panama side lacking a pointy end to its stick have been given too much weight.

8' Of course I say that and then we narrowly miss two decent chances at the other end.

9' That was well done by Bradley, but I don't want to see him have to dribble five guys in the middle of the field very often.

10' You knew that was coming! JJ with the yellow. Looks a little off the pace, but just as ill-tempered as always.

13' Panama's midfield < Honduras's midfield.

I'll be honest, this is an alarming start. Some rash challenges flying in. Bradley had a studs up effort right before Fab wrote his name in the book with what I thought was a lesser offense. Everyone's got a case of the Joneses.

17' Outstanding combination play through the midfield ending in a good Altidore chance. Seeing eye pass from Bradley and a good one touch ball outside to Fab. Shades of Altidore's Panama goal...minus the end result of course.

18' DEUCE! I would have put my house on him getting his head on that and putting it in the net. I would have lost my house. Full disclosure: I do not own a house.

Does Jozy have a touch of Kanye about him? In the face, I mean? Yeezus.

25' There's a sniper in the stands.

Match has hit a bit of a disjointed spell. Both sides have sort of weathered one another's storm and now things have settled into a series of sixty yard passes to no one.

28' Jozy did great work to try to win that back and I love it, but that probably should have been a yellow. Honduras is loving this script right now.

31' Well, they're booing Costly, but it looks like he's legitimately pulled his calf. This is going to be...wait for it...costly for Honduras. I know, I know. You're in stitches.

32' And here's the change. Rojas on for Costly. Is there a way to take back the "Stop being a pussy"chant?

33' JJ with a strong run forward up the right channel and he wins a foul on the edge of the Honduras penalty area. Deuce with the strike but he pings it off a Honduran forehead.

36' The range of passing here is impressive and EJ did well to stay onside and get behind the Honduran defense. However, that seems to be plans A through Z right now and we're playing Honduras at home. Like I said before, the wins over Germany and Panama were awesome, but they may have been more curb appeal and less dry basement. That's a home buying analogy.

40' Jozy's effort is there, but it's being channeled for evil instead of good right now. He's fighting an inner battle between AZ Jozy and USMNT Jozy.

A US goal just before half time would be huge.

41' A short corner? Really? And no service? They know Colon is 5'7 right? Right?

45' Just after Deuce and Jozy narrowly miss combining, Gonzalez blacks out and has his one requisite calamitous moment. Howard bails him out and then eats a chunk of his ass. In fairness to Gonzo, it was a bad giveaway to begin with, but his failure to close is inexcusable.

Well, there's half time. I feel like the Yanks were maybe a little too keen on themselves following the Panama dismantling. Honduras is doing a very good job closing down the passing lanes and hammering whichever US player is in possession nearly as soon as he crosses midfield and certainly when he receives the ball with his back to goal. US has been unlucky on a number of occasions to not connect with the final ball or spring the offside trap with a long ball over the top.

Having said that, Honduras is more than a little bit in this match and should be up 1-0 courtesy of some slack defending.

Takeaways: Gonzo does his best work unopposed. I need my Johnsons in the midfield. Everyone has a case of the Joneses. Twellsy's pocket square and shirt combo still hasn't grown on me.

If I had a red phone to Jurgen (I don't) I leave the side on the field unchanged. I get Cameron and Kljestan moving though and think about bringing Davis on for EJ.

I hate to say this, but I just had a premonition. US red card.

45' Why in Sam Hill did Evans play that ball all the way back? Free in the right channel and had an opportunity to get it in the box.

48' There's that same too long long ball.

49' Good ball in from Zusi, but Gonzo couldn't steer it home. Ian Darke just informed me that Gonzo was a college striker. My world makes so, so, so, so much more sense. Besler is still my horse. He's a little horse. Not quite a miniature pony, but a little guy. Like one of those horses the Comanches rode. Fast, strong, but not much to look at. Yeah, that's it. Besler is a Comanche horse.

I feel like the fans in Utah are the same fans from Seattle, but that they've been up this whole time and now reek of cigarettes, light beer, and NoDoz.

If you're Wilson Palacios and you're a hatchet man and you can't get into the Stoke City side...well, I don't know.

56' Great ball in from Zusi off the set piece and Evans should have buried that. Hit it right at the keeper. Also, did anyone notice Twellsy make zero sense there? Said, "That ball needs to go right back where it came from, the back of the net." It came from the back of the net? Polk dot pocket square and plaid shirt? Those concussions were legit.

And on cue, there's a shot of Davis and Cameron warming up.

59' Goal disallowed for offside on Altidore, but that was bright move.

Dempsey's touch is just on a different level than any other US player. Looks effortless.

61' That was a horribly ill-advised pass from JJ. Could have been a goal for Honduras. Bring on Cameron.

63' Holy shit! Hand of God there! Or at least John the Baptist. This match has that feel about it. And by "that feel" I, of course mean the "it's-just-not-our-day" feel.

Ooh! I figured it out. Graham Zusi is a young Mel Kiper Jr. Hang on, I'll Google a pic...

Add a headband and subtract 20 year. Zusi.

69' Match is starting to get stretched a bit.

70' Remember what I said about "that feel"? Dempsey and then Bradley should have scored.

With Zusi finding so much joy down the left, it seems unlikely Davis will come on now to replace Johnson. I like Davis, but Zusi is having a field day over there and Davis's right foot is just for standing on. Like, literally. He has a handicapped placard in his car because he will literally fall over if he stands on one foot. Scout's honor.

73' ALTIDORE! And it came from Johnson getting forward. Please, please, please, please, please always let my Fab Johnson play on the left wing.

75' Well, what do I know. I'm surprised Zusi is coming off because he's been our fire starter going forward in the second half. I completely understand Cameron for Jones though. Boniek Garcia is on for Honduras as well. Still remember watching the original Boniek play on old VHS cassettes. Cat could ball.

78' Jozy almost had two. Great cut back and then a decent strike forces the keeper into a save.

80' There's my Besler...er, little horse. But like a badass little horse. Don't forget.

Cameron has to be giving Klinsman something to think about. He looks very sharp in midfield and his range of passing, at least in the last two matches, doesn't seem to be too lacking in relation to Jones. I think his versatility is working against him.

83' Cameron started that move with great, calm play under pressure and then a good pass out to Davis who won the corner.

84' Besler. Comanche horse.

87' Castillo on for EJ. Edgar looks like a little kid from a cereal commercial to me. I just can't take the tattoos seriously. I used to use my mom's makeup when I was a kid to paint gruesome black eyes on my face in order to look like I'd been doing some cool, tough, guy shit. In retrospect, people probably either thought I was a future drag queen or, if I'd done an exceptionally good makeup job that day, that my parents were routinely beating the hell out of me. Anyway, what am I trying to say? Oh yeah, Edgar Castillo's tattoos just don't look right. He's like a kid playing dress-up. Or black eye up. Whatever.

93' Cameron again with good play pushing forward.

This should do it.

95' Look at Jozy getting back there and putting in a tackle! Kid could be on the cusp of something HUGE, both for the national team and in his club career.

Well, that was an escape. The first half was poor and I don't think there's any other way to paint that. Team seemed disjointed and half awake. Credit where credit is due, however. The side fought back in the second half and willed its way to a goal and those are the sorts of games that make good teams good teams.

Just listening to the Jozy interview at the end of the match. Hint of a Dutch lisp there? Or have I just never noticed how pronounced Josmer's speech particularities are?

Takeaways: This team can win ugly with lots of miles in its legs. Besler is a Comanche horse and I love him (minus the giveaway). Lil Edgar Castillo is adorable and not at all believable with his tattoos. Zusi has to be the Man of the Match. Minus his God awful hairstyle, he was a terror on the left flank in the second half and it seemed like all the dangerous US moves came through him. I have to believe the Davis substitution was decided upon before the goal and I can't blame Klinsy for wanting to get some fresh legs in there, but Zusi was seemingly at the apex of his purple patch. That's a pretty weak criticism though.

It would be easier to go after the effort, tactics, and general disjointed appearance of the team in the first half, but with all the recent matches, players out with yellow card accumulation, and Jones coming back from a spell on the sideline with a concussion, it would really be just bitching for bitching's sake and no one likes that.

If anything, tonight's match showed how important Fabian Johnson is to the team as a left sided midfielder. When he was able to get forward, it wasn't as noticeable, but without Johnson on the left providing width and a consistent threat with his service, the team looked narrow and far too reliant on Michael Bradley picking out a run from Dempsey, Altidore, or EJ to spring the offside trap. I have to wonder if Altidore's comments after the match, something along the lines of "[Johnson's] been doing that all year for his club in Germany," were intended as kind of an extra nudge to make sure he gets penciled into that spot as a regular. And yes, I know he was playing at left back, but what he provides defensively in no way warrants what you give up going forward if you start him at left back. The "you" being Klinsy. I see no reason why Lil Edgar couldn't have started there and allowed Johnson more freedom to go forward from the first whistle. Especially since the match was a home one and the side was riding a comfortable high, in no small part due to Fab Johnson's contributions on the flank.

I'm splitting hairs now. Three points. Boom!

Thanks for reading and commenting. Come on you Yanks!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Live Blog: A Man, A Plan, A Canal...Let's Get 3 Points


I'm here and I'm just a wee bit lubricated from Flat 12 Bierworks's delicious Cucumber Kolsch as served up in honor of Juergen Sommer's appointment as Head Coach and Director of Soccer Operations for Indy Eleven, the NASL's newest franchise.

It was a lovely event and wholly unencumbered by foul weather or long lines, but now down to the macro business of the US Men's National team and its quest for World Cup qualification.

Malaria. Light Beer. Probably high waisted bikinis too. 
Tonight: Panama.

I think of only a few things when I think of Panama.

1: The canal - Along with said canal, I think of malaria, the French, and Teddy Roosevelt. Read a book.

2: Manuel Noriega - Listen, there were all sorts of ins and outs with that invasion. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but hegemony is a word that hits pretty close to home to our neighbors to the south. As Porfirio Diaz said, "So far from God, so close to the United States." Also, Noriega had some wicked pock marks, did he not?

3: Van Halen - I know for a certain set of American rock aficionados this is near blasphemy to say, but I can't stand Van Halen. I think of yellow Jeep Wranglers, mullets, and light beer when I think of Van Halen. None of those things is good. Also, any song (and I'm referring to Panama here) that begins with the lyrics "Uh! Oh Yeah! Ah-huh!" ranks highly in the pantheon of shit as far as I'm concerned.

So there you go. Malaria, acne, and light beer.

Come on you Yanks!  

More to come at kickoff...

ESPN is predicting a 68.9% chance of a US win. Thank God for that?

Here we go!

The dulcet tones of Ian Darke are ringing again in my ears and we're getting our first glimpse of the "ridiculously awful" pitch in Seattle.

"Eddie Johnson will have to be effective." Thanks, Taylor Twellman. That's sports journalism at it's finest.

3' Geoff Cameron is looking sharp and like he's going to get a JJ caliber yellow at some point. Love it.

3' FABIAN! Doh!

5' Enriquez (he's Panama's 21) is wearing gloves. Gloves. Guantes. Are you shitting me?

7' Great run forward by DMB and well found by Besler. DMB haters, please tell me who is our better left back option?


9' Great move from the US going forward. Decent ball in from DMB, but he couldn't find Deuce's head. Nice to see the interchange going forward and the quick passes to transition from flank to flank.

Monica Gonzalez is making the turf situation sound like a matter of national security right now.

14' Holy shit! Panama has two of the same coach. Body doubles? That's sneaky. Panama just climbed my list of nations to get out of CONCACAF qualifying. I mean, that's next level. Some managers give out false injury reports. Panama has a body double for its coach. Respect.

Cameron is continuing his streak of playing in every position other than his publicly acknowledged "best position". Right back and attacking midfielder for Stoke. Right back and defensive midfielder for the Nats. From a player's perspective, that's actually a pretty sweet deal. Built-in excuse?

Also, Geoff Cameron looks EXACTLY like Michael Richards in Problem Child. Hang on, I'll Google a pic.


25' Quintero is doing his best to test Evans who's used to having some help behind him on the flank. I still think Cherundolo is our best option at right back, but Evans could find a home for himself there if he gets the one-on-one defensive skills to go with his abilities pushing forward. Kudos to Besler covering there and Johnson tracking back to do decidedly un-EJ work.

Lot of talk right now about Gonzalez and his abilities at center back. I remain unsold on his abilities outside of MLS. However, I'm going on record with my thirteen readers that Besler is going to be the next US player to establish himself as a legitimate American international talent.

30' Thank God that dive didn't work. Evans is getting attacked and needs help. Also, Taylor Twellman just made sense. Those concussions didn't get to him after all. And speaking of, did anyone else see Alexi Lalas today saying that he wouldn't mind heading of the ball being outlawed in soccer in order to protect players from brain damage? Ah, Alexi. Sweet, sweet Alexi.

33' FABIAN! Hit it with your purse next time, Sally!

34' Jozy just went beast mode there. That was most definitely AZ Jozy and not at all USMNT Jozy. Great work. Clear penalty.

36' That was the best US counter-attacking goal I've seen since Lando's goal in the Confed Cup v Brazil.

Bradley drives at the heart of the Panama defense, draws defenders, plays wide to Fabian, and then a perfect ball across to Jozy. Again, that's AZ Jozy and not USMNT Jozy.

1-0, Good Guys.

39' When it's your day, it's your day. I thought that was a bad choice by Cameron going to ground in the box, but he won the tackle and then EJ drew the foul against Panama. Did I mention how much Geoff Cameron looks like Michael Richards in Problem Child? How about how much EJ looks like Roy Hibbert if someone stuck a bicycle pump in him, stretched him Medieval rack style, fed him twinkies, and soaked him like a sponge? Hang on, I'll Google a pic...

Amiright? Huh?

46' Offside and the Panama goal is disallowed. Thank God. Which brings me to a soccer pet peeve. No, not Alexi Lalas. It's when people say "Offsides" instead of "Offside." There's only one side you can be off. Unless you're some kind of soccer double agent and you manage to be playing for both teams at the same time and are also huge enough that you can straddle the entire field, Megatron style, you cannot be offsides. 

Rant over. 

Half time.


What's the grammar rule here?

I just noticed how stupendous Bob Ley's hair is. Rewind the DVR, I'll wait. I mean, look at that coif. If there was a product called "Silver Fox Helmet," that would be it. Good on you, Bob Ley.

Second half! Here we go!

Thoughts on Dempsey as a captain? Have to say, I think the no nonsense, get on with it, Deuce face attitude is a needed foil to Kilnsy's relentless, decidedly un-German optimism.

Cameron is settling in nicely. Covering a lot of ground and not nearly as many wayward passes as he hit in the first half.

52' And now Twellsy is agreeing with me. I take back my concussion comments.

53' Geoff Cameron is my motor. EJ is my high octane gasoline.

2-0, USMNT

The 2-0 scoreline is important, but the fact that AZ Jozy and pre-Fulham EJ have apparently rejoined the USMNT is even bigger news. If we can get those two guys full of confidence and playing off of one another's strengths, we should qualify comfortably.

57' The "You're not going to Brazil" chant is probably a little classless, but hey, isn't that what home field advantage is all about?

US is moving the ball crisply and confidently. Love the pace and the quick ball movement. I'm *this close* to sending Klinsy a Hallmark card. Or at least a nice tweet.

62' I don't want to tempt fate, but Cameron seems to be playing exactly like JJ but without the guaranteed yellow/red/dark red card. I like JJ's tattoos better, but Cameron is showing some potential there with his 3/4 sleeve.

66' Altidore then Dempsey with great chances. All starts with Cameron though. He's having a beast of a game. Please, someone rescue him from Stoke City and the looming pall of Mark Hughes and his cursed specter. Hughes strikes me as the kind of guy who would wear a hat with a buckle, Jamestown Puritan style. Probably would burn witches at the stake. Also saw Goody Proctor in the woods with the Devil.

69' Sanchez with the dive and the yellow card. Are we in bizarro world? Over/under 70% chance that's a penalty anywhere south of Dallas?

70' Seattle > Any other US soccer city

75' Heart just skipped a beat as I saw that ball go back to Howard. Images of Paul Robinson and his England career going down the drain at the hands of a bumpy pitch and an inside the posts back pass.

76' Match has taken a little bit of turn for the somnolent. US up by 2 and not too terribly concerned with getting another goal. Panama seems completely incapable of doing anything but sending in early crosses and hoping to win something off Besler and Gonzo. Isn't happening. Testament to Beasley and Evans that they aren't allowing runs behind them to be productive.

78' Dempsey with the most un-Texan finish of all time. Shoot it, electrocute it, grill it, and smother it in ranch dressing next time.


Beasley is unlucky there. Someone must have bet Deuce he couldn't complete five back heel passes in one match. Jozy with a a great ball after the knock down. Right on to DMB's feet. Props to Ft. Wayne's own for even making that run. Still haven't heard the suggestion of a better option at left back.

Don't want to give up a late goal here. That floated ball to the back post has produced a couple of half chances.

87' Brad "Half Hobbit, Half Stewie From Family Guy" Davis comes on for Fabian Johnson, or as I like to call him, Fab Johnson. Someone needs to talk to him about a post soccer career as a sex toy pitch man.

Any arguments against Geoff Cameron as Man of the Match?

90' Besler again with great covering and a competent tackle in the box, then wins the foul. That's my horse.

91' Stu is in and his hair is looking like it's in mid season form. Good body, a hint of a highlight or two, off the ears and neck. Respect, Stu.

Great save by Howard and there's Gonzo's one blackout moment. He's always good for one. He's like the USMNT's Philippe Senderos, but with worse hair, which is saying something because Senderos is bald and looks like a James Bond villain. If Klinsy is looking for Holden to provide value to the side, he needs to sit him down with Gonzo and get him to spit some hair knowledge.

Full time!



Take aways: The USMNT cruised in that match. Jozy, Deuce, Fab, and EJ looked very much on the same page going forward and that took a lot of pressure off the defense. Easier to look confident when you're not constantly trying to put out fires after you've been caught in transition.

Also, Bradley and Cameron were stellar in this match. I don't know what that means moving forward for Jones, my gut is probably not much, but I'm pretty sure the "What's Geoff Cameron's Best Position" debate just acquired a new dynamic.

I tend to think that Jones is still needed in that holding position, especially against more capable competition. Not taking anything away from Cameron, but Jones strikes me as a faster, more capable of the dark arts sort of player.

In conclusion: Michael Richards, Besler is my horse, EJ is my high octane gasoline, and DMB FTW.